From New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Bestselling author Vi Keeland comes the sexy stand-alone novel, The Naked Truth .
It was just a typical Monday. Until the big boss asked me to make the pitch for a prospective new client. After two years on shaky ground at work because of my screw up, an opportunity to impress the senior partners was just what I needed. Or so I thought…
Until I walked into the conference room and collided with the man I was supposed to pitch. My coffee spilled, my files tumbled to the ground…and that was the good part of my day. Because the gorgeous man crouched down and looking at me like he wanted to eat me alive, was none other than my ex, Gray Westbrook. A man who my heart despised—yet my body obviously still had other ideas about.
Somehow, I managed to make it through my presentation ignoring his intense stare. Although it was impossible to ignore all the dirty things he whispered into my ear right after I was done. But there was no way I was giving him another chance, especially now that he was a client… was there?
Age Rating: 18+
Note: This story is the author’s original version and does not have sound.
The Naked Truth by Vi Keeland is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.
Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!
From New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Bestselling author Vi Keeland comes the sexy stand-alone novel, The Naked Truth.
It was just a typical Monday. Until the big boss asked me to make the pitch for a prospective new client. After two years on shaky ground at work because of my screw up, an opportunity to impress the senior partners was just what I needed. Or so I thought…Until I walked into the conference room and collided with the man I was supposed to pitch. My coffee spilled, my files tumbled to the ground…and that was the good part of my day. Because the gorgeous man crouched down and looking at me like he wanted to eat me alive, was none other than my ex, Gray Westbrook. A man who my heart despised—yet my body obviously still had other ideas about.Somehow, I managed to make it through my presentation ignoring his intense stare. Although it was impossible to ignore all the dirty things he whispered into my ear right after I was done. But there was no way I was giving him another chance, especially now that he was a client… was there?
Age Rating: 18+
Note: This story is the author’s original version and does not have sound.
It takes strength to forgive. When you fall in love with a strong woman and screw up, she will forgive you…after she is done kicking your ass.
“I’m sorry. I forgot to call you. I’m not going to be able to go to lunch today.” I sighed and waved at the papers strewn across my desk. “Pittman asked me to do a presentation for a new client.”
“Old Man Pittman or Joe asked you?”
“Old Man Pittman. Well, asked isn’t really the right word.
“He opened my door without knocking while I was on a conference call, made me put my client on hold mid-sentence, and then barked something about three o’clock in the executive conference room and walked out.
“I had to call his secretary Liz to get the details.”
“That’s great. You’re finally getting back in the good graces of the named partners. I knew you’d work your way there.” Oliver came around my desk and kissed the top of my head on his way out.
“I’ll bring you back the fresh tuna tacos you love.”
“You’re the best.”
I’d been seeing Oliver Blake for about a month now, even though we’d been friends for nearly five years.
He was a junior partner in the copyright division of my law firm, and I wasn’t exaggerating—he seriously was the best.
When I was sick last weekend, he stopped by with chicken soup. If I was down, he reminded me of all the good things in my life.
He’d been my biggest supporter even before we started dating—encouraging me to ride out the storm here at Latham & Pittman after I nearly got disbarred and fired a couple of years back.
Smart, handsome, and with a great job—he was the dream man a girl would love to bring home to meet her parents. And totally the opposite of the jerks I’m usually attracted to.
Last week he’d mentioned that his lease was up in a few months and hinted that he’d love to have me help him look for a bigger place—since he hoped I’d be spending more time there in the future.
Smart, handsome, a great job,and…not afraid of commitment.
I made a mental note to check his closets for hidden skeletons the next time I went to his apartment, and then went back to studying my presentation.
I’d watched the senior partners give the client pitch a few times, but this was the first time I’d be giving it myself.
And I hated not having more than a few hours to study the slides and write my own notes.
Not to mention, the only thing I knew about the investment firm I’d be pitching was that it was a start-up with a massive bankroll coming in.
Probably some hotshot, arrogant trader who left his firm and took a billion dollars of investors with him—just the type of account the senior partners loved.
Old-school investment firms were good clients—steady billing to review contracts, prospectuses, and countless dealings with the SEC—but young, arrogant, new-age investment firms run by yuppies racked up legal bills like they were paying with Monopoly money.
They were sued for harassing employees, discrimination, breaching contracts, securities violations.
Hell, even our tax department would get involved because all those young guys thought they were smarter than the IRS.
A couple of hours later, when it was time for my presentation, I rode the elevator up to the top floor and walked through the thick glass doors to the executive-level suites.
My firm wasn’t cheap—my personal office was spacious, and the furniture was high-end.
But the executive floor reeked of money, old money—mahogany reception desk, crystal chandelier, Persian area rugs, and original artwork with perfectly positioned lighting.
It wasn’t lost on me that the last time I’d been invited up here was almost two years ago, when I’d been summoned to explain my actions, which had resulted in charges against me by the New York State Bar Association disciplinary committee.
It meant something when you were beckoned to the top floor—good or bad—which had me even more curious about why I was making today’s presentation.
Sarah Dursh, one of the senior partners, met me in the hallway as I walked to the conference room. “You all ready?”
“As ready as I can feel without knowing much about the client.”
Sarah’s brow furrowed. “What do you mean you don’t know much about the client?”
“I know the basics. But the corporate prospectus wasn’t available yet, so I don’t know much about the key players. I feel a little unprepared.”
“But you’ve worked with the CEO before.” She shook her head. “That’s why he requested that you specifically make the presentation.”
“I was requested to do the presentation? I didn’t realize that. Who requested me?”
Arriving at the glass door to the executive conference room, I could see Archibald Pittman standing on the other side, laughing as he spoke to a man.
His back was toward us, so I couldn’t immediately see his face.
Nor did I immediately put two and two together when Sarah said, “There he is. That’s Mr. Westbrook. He’s the one who requested you lead the pitch meeting.”
Since I had an armful of files, my laptop, and a venti Starbucks coffee, Sarah opened the door, and I stepped through first.
I’d made it exactly two steps when the man Pittman had been talking to turned around. Then everything fell apart.
Literally. I froze.
Sarah, who was right behind me, walked into me, causing the files I held to slip from my hands. I bent to catch them. My coffee bobbled, and I gripped the container, which caused the lid to pop off.
When I grabbed for it, the entire venti coffee spilled all over the carpet. The only thing I somehow managed to save from the conference room floor was my laptop.
Before I could collect my things or even right myself to standing, a strong hand found my elbow as I wobbled down at the floor.
The man had crouched down directly in front of me, and all I could do was stare.
Yet I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Nor could I figure out how to use my big mouth to say a single word, and we were suddenly face to face. The intensity of our connection knocked the wind right out of me.
My pulse raced, heart pounded inside of my chest, and I didn’t even attempt to pick up my files or splattered coffee.
Keeping hold of my elbow, he held out his other hand for me to take.
“Good to see you again, Freckles.”
I had no idea how I managed to make it through the beginning of the presentation. I’d originally thought I’d be nervous with Mr. Pittman and the other named partners in the room while I spoke.
Then again, I’d had no idea Gray Westbrook would be staring at me from the opposite end of the table. His eyes were penetrating, and his smirk both infuriated and intimidated me.
Even worse, he was more gorgeous than I remembered. His skin was tanned, which made the green in his eyes that much more penetrating.
Through his suit, I could tell he’d grown bulkier, that underneath the expensive, tailored clothing was a body just as chiseled as his jaw.
And sitting at the head of the table, he exuded a power that hit all my hot buttons. I’d forgotten a man could physically affect me in that way.
I attempted to ignore him and stick to my slides. But he made it damn near impossible. From the moment I’d started, he’d forced me to interact by asking questions.
My presentation was approximately thirty slides, and so far he’d interrupted on at least ten. At first it made me nervous, even though his questions were basically softballs.
But after I regained my wits, his constant forcing me to respond to him had started to piss me off.
“Our securities division works closely with the SEC, FINRA, DOJ, and New York State Securities Division to monitor and—”
He interrupted me. Again. “Who will be heading up my team?”
“As I was going to say, the securities division is comprised of a senior partner who worked at the Department of Justice, litigating securities fraud for eleven…”
While I was speaking, Gray looked at his watch. He then proceeded to interrupt me for what had to be the twentieth time in less than half an hour. “I’m sorry.
“I have a meeting across town I need to run to.”
If eyes shot daggers, the man would have looked like a slice of Lacey Swiss. What the hell is he doing? Trying to get even for the way things ended?
I folded my arms over my chest. “Was it unclear that our presentation would take at least an hour?”
Though my eyes never left Gray’s, I felt heads swing in my direction. The senior partners were probably having a heart attack right about now.
I didn’t give a shit.
Gray’s lip quirked. He was enjoying himself. The asshole.
“We initially booked an hour, but something urgent has come up that requires my immediate attention.”
“Really? When did it come up?”
“ Layla,” Mr. Pittman warned, stopping short of that’ll be enough out of you. But he didn’t need to say it; his tone said it all.
Then he turned his attention to Gray. “I’m sorry, Mr. Westbrook. Of course we understand that you’re busy.
“Perhaps we can reschedule, and I’d be more than happy to finish the presentation and answer any questions you might have.”
Gray stood and buttoned his suit jacket. “That won’t be necessary.”
Mr. Pittman began to talk, but Gray spoke only to me across the table. “Perhaps Layla can finish tonight over dinner.”
I squinted. “I have a previous engagement with a client.”
Pittman’s eyes nearly bulged out of his head. “I’ll fill in for whatever you have tonight, Layla. You’ll finish your presentation over dinner with Mr. Westbrook.”
The big boss wasn’t asking; he was telling. I had already pushed my luck as far as it could possibly bend without snapping, so I kept my mouth shut and silently glared at Gray.
The partners all shook hands with our prospective client and made small talk. I had no intention of going down to the other end of the table.
Instead, I packed up my laptop and files to busy myself and hoped Mr. Westbrook would just disappear.
No such luck.
Gray approached and extended his hand. “Ms. Hutton.”
Seeing my bosses watching our exchange over Gray’s shoulder, I placed my hand in his, which he then used to pull me closer. I felt his hot breath on my neck as he whispered in my ear.
“You can act like you’re pissed off all you want. But your body tells me otherwise. You’re as happy to see me as I am you.”
I pulled my head back, indignant. “You’re crazy.”
His eyes dropped to my chest, where my nipples were practically piercing through my sheer blouse. Fucking traitors.
Gray smirked. “Logan’s, 7PM. I’ll make a reservation and send a car for you.”
“I’ll meet you there.”
He shook his head and laughed.
“Missed that attitude, Freckles.”
Good, because you’re going to get a lot more of it.
Of course I was the only one on time. I checked my phone. Ten after seven. Deciding college rules applied, I vowed to give Gray five more minutes to show up before I ditched and called him a no-show.
“May I get you something to drink while you wait for the rest of your party?” the waiter asked.
I would normally wait to see what the client did and follow his lead on alcohol. But tonight was not the norm.
I rubbed at my stiff neck. “I’ll take a vodka cranberry, please.”
I hoped it would help calm my nerves and release some of the tension in my jaw before I gave myself a full-blown headache.
Taking out my phone, I started to scroll through emails to distract myself while waiting for my drink and dinner companion.
My head whipped up at the sound of Gray’s voice behind me. “Sorry I’m late.”
My heart unexpectedly fluttered, and I fought against the feeling of excitement. “Are you really?
“Because I get the sense you don’t have any manners after the way you interrupted me a million times today.”
He completely ignored my attitude as he took the seat across from me. “Traffic is a bitch getting downtown at this time. Next time we’ll have dinner at my place.”
“There won’t be a next time.”
Gray’s mouth curved into a smug smile as he snagged my gaze. “Sure there will. There’ll be plenty of next times. And eventually you’ll stop pretending you don’t enjoy my company.”
I hated that my body reacted to him. Right from the very start, we’d had a crazy chemistry between us that was difficult to dull.
I sighed. “What are you doing, Gray? Why did you come to my firm?”
He lifted the cloth napkin in front of him and laid it across his lap. “Isn’t that obvious? I need new legal representation.”
“At my firm? And you’d prefer that representation come from an associate instead of my boss’s boss—the head of our securities division?
“Or even from Pittman, who would gladly hold your hand and provide you whatever legal advice you need from his fifty-plus years of experience?”
“Loyalty is important to me. I want someone I can trust with my business.”
“And you’ve decided that’s me? An associate with five years experience who just got off probation with the Bar Association for violating attorney-client privilege?”
The waiter arrived with my drink. “Here you go, ma’am.” He turned to Gray. “May I get you something to drink? Or would you like to wait until the last of your party joins you this evening?”
“It’s just the two of us. I’ll have a Macallan, neat, please.”
“Coming right up.” The waiter walked around to the other side of the table and started to remove the third place setting.
I put my hand out, stopping him. “We actually do have another party coming, so you can leave that.”
“Very well.” He nodded.
Gray waited until the waiter was out of earshot. “I didn’t invite anyone else to dinner.”
I sipped my drink and offered a saccharine-sweet fake smile. “I did. Figured an important client like you should have more than one attorney to answer his questions.”
Just as I set down my glass, I saw the other man I was waiting for enter the restaurant. He scanned the room, looking for me, so I held up my hand and waved.
“Perfect timing. There’s Oliver now.”
Gray glanced at the man heading toward us and back to me. Instead of being pissed off, the jerk was amused. “That’s cute. You invited a chaperone because you don’t trust yourself with me.”
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“So you’re Layla’s boss?” I sucked back a healthy gulp of the drink our waiter had just brought me.
“No, I’m not her boss. I’m in the copyright division, actually. But I’m a junior partner at Latham & Pittman. I’ve been with the firm for fifteen years.
“I can answer just about any question you might have.”
I wanted the annoying clutter sitting between Layla and me removed. “Are you insinuating that Layla isn’t capable of answering any questions I might have?”
“No, not at all.”
“Then why are you here?”
The pencil neck looked to Layla to answer.
“I invited Oliver,” she said. “Like I told you, I thought there should be more than one attorney available to answer your questions, considering how valuable your account would be to our firm.”
“You thought wrong.” I turned back to Oliver. “You can go. I trust that Layla will be able to handle any questions I might have.”
Layla spoke through gritted teeth, but managed to keep a level tone. “Oliver is already here. And he brings a lot of value. I’m sure you’ll see that by the time we finish dinner.”
The waiter appeared holding menus.
I grumbled to myself, “I’m sure I won’t.”
After we ordered dinner, Layla’s chaperone excused himself to go to the bathroom.
As soon as he was out of earshot, I said, “We need to talk, Layla. Alone. Tell him to take a hike.”
I stood. “Fine. I’ll take care of it myself.”
I ignored Layla shouting after me as I trailed Mr. Junior Partner to the bathroom. Pencil Neck was at the urinal. Apparently his neck wasn’t the only thing that resembled a pencil.
I stood next to him and reached into my pocket. Peeling ten hundred-dollar bills from my thick billfold, I waited until he zipped his fly. Then I extended the cash.
“Have dinner somewhere else? On me.”
Pencil Neck looked down at the cash, up at me, and walked over to the sinks. I waited while he washed his hands.
When he was done, he leaned against the sink and folded his arms across his chest. “I assume we’re talking man to man in here, not attorney at Latham & Pittman to potential client, right?”
“Of course.” I nodded once. “Man to man.”
He smiled. “Good. Then let me tell you, you’re wasting your time if you’re interested in Ms. Hutton.”
“Why is that?”
“Three reasons. One, Layla would never go out with a client. Two, I did my due diligence on you. You might be a client worth a lot of money to the firm, but you’re also an ex-con.
“And three, she’s my girlfriend.”
My blood started to pump harder. I hadn’t expected that last part. Although, if Oliver thought that would scare me away, he had another thing coming. I’d just done three years in prison.
Even if I found this guy mildly intimidating—which I didn’t in the slightest—he’d never see me sweat.
Instead, I smiled and put a hand on his shoulder. “Let me be honest—you know, man to man—I find none of those three reasons a deterrent.”
At least he was smart enough to take the hint. Oliver—the boyfriend—kept his mouth shut during most of dinner, allowing Layla to take the lead.
Unlike this afternoon, I let her tell me all about the firm I already knew I was hiring, without interrupting. I didn’t really give a fuck about any of the old cronies who would oversee my needs.
But sitting across the small table, watching Layla’s mouth move while she talked, staring at the light smattering of freckles she tried to conceal, letting my eyes linger on her full lips when she was paying attention and Pencil Dick wasn’t, had turned into a fun game:Make Layla squirm in her seat.
It had been over a year since I last saw her, and if it were possible, she’d grown even more beautiful.
Her dark hair was longer, and she was letting its natural wave show, rather than making it silky straight like she had a year ago.
Looking at her, all I saw was what I’d dreamed that straight hair would look like after our bodies spent hours slapping against each other.
That had been a recurring damn dream after she’d cut off all communication with me. It had filled my thoughts on many lonely nights.
Tonight her plump lips were painted a bright red, and the top center dipped low, forming a perfect little V. I wanted to trace them with my tongue. Her long, feminine neck needed sucking and biting.
But her eyes were the showstopper. They were a pale greenish-blue that I knew firsthand darkened when she was turned on.
“Are you even listening to me?” Layla blinked twice.
Shit. I hadn’t heard a word she’d said. “Of course I am.”
She leaned forward and lowered her voice. “Then what did I just say?”
Well damn, her eyes also go dark when she’s pissed. I couldn’t wait to fuck her when she was angry and see what that looked like.
“You were talking about the firm.”
She looked back and forth between my eyes and squinted. “Whatever. I’ve been doing all the talking this evening anyway. Tell me,Mr. Westbrook, what kind of services are you looking for from a firm?
“This afternoon you mentioned your SEC license appeal and your new business venture. But I don’t know anything about your plans since you were too busy to give us that full hour earlier today.”
Pencil Dick looked back and forth at the two of us. I could see he had no idea what to make of Layla’s attitude.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he was enjoying it, since I’d tried to buy him off, but I got the feeling he had no idea of the history between Layla and me. I decided to test that theory.
“You look familiar, Oliver, yet I can’t place it. Have you ever been up to Otisville Federal Correctional Facility?”
It was the first time I’d spoken to him directly since the men’s room.
“Me? No, I haven’t.” He looked to Layla. “But that’s where you taught that prisoner appeals program class for a while, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” She flashed me what I thought might be warning eyes.
Oliver was obviously quick at math, putting two and two together and all. “Is that where you did your sentence?”
I lifted my drink to my lips and smiled. “It is.”
He looked at his loving girlfriend, then me, then back to her. “Did you two ever come across each other?”
And his loving girlfriend lied right to his face. “ No.”
It made my fucking day. I offered Oliver my first genuine smile. I’d thought Pencil Dick would hamper my ability to gauge whether Layla had any interest in trying to figure things out with me.
But her lie said more than she would’ve admitted on her own.
Unless you’re pathological, you don’t lie without a reason. And there’s only one reason you lie to the guy you’re dating about another man: so he won’t get jealous.
Which meant there was something there for him to be jealous about.
I arched a brow and smirked at Layla. She scowled, and her eyes darkened even more.
“Why don’t you fill us in on your legal needs, Mr. Westbrook,” she said. “What kind of a business are you starting?”
“A venture capitalist firm. We plan to focus on technology and communication investments.
“So I’ll need someone to perform due diligence on the license requirements of potential investments, handle the purchase agreements, draw up loan agreements, and make sure we’re not getting into bed with any crooks.”
“That last part is interesting.” Layla sipped her drink. “And you’re planning on applying for your securities license back?”
“I am. But not just yet. I’d like to focus on the new venture for now while I work on a few things that might help improve my application for licensing.”
“You know, the chances of the FINRA reinstating your securities license after a felony conviction are very slim,” Layla said. “It’s an automatic ten-year disqualification.”
“Technically I wasn’t convicted. I accepted a plea deal rather than risk a trial. At the time, it was the lesser of two evils.”
“In the eyes of the law, acceptance of a plea deal is the legal equivalent of a conviction.”
“I understand the consequences of accepting the deal. However, I’ve read you can get special permission for licensing notwithstanding disqualification.”
“The rules say you can. But it’s not easy. We’ve applied for a few and never had one go through.”
“Well, then, I see lots of firsts for us in the future.” I raised my glass to her.
After dinner was over, the three of us walked outside to the valet together. I took my time digging in my pocket for the ticket stub that would retrieve my car.
Lucky for me, the first car to arrive belonged to Oliver, and another car that wasn’t mine or Layla’s pulled up right behind it, which meant he couldn’t linger.
He stalled, trying to wait it out, probably hoping Layla’s car would pull up so he wouldn’t be leaving the two of us alone. But it didn’t.
When a couple got into the car behind him, I lifted my chin to point at it. “Looks like you’re blocking a car that’s ready to leave.”
He looked at Layla, then back to me.
I smiled and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure she gets into her car safely.”
If the shoe were on the other foot, no way would I leave my woman alone outside a restaurant with an ex-felon who’d already made it clear he had a non-business interest in her—potential large client or not.
Although he looked conflicted, Oliver’s decision came down on the wrong side of manhood.
“I’ll see you in the office tomorrow.” He squeezed Layla’s shoulder, then extended his hand to me. Soft shake…pussy. “It was nice meeting you. I hope you’ll be joining Latham & Pittman.”
My answer was a firm handshake. “Goodnight.”
Layla and I watched in silence as her interference drove away.
“Oliver is my boyfriend,” she said in a warning tone.
“I know. He mentioned that in the men’s room when I tried to pay him off to take a hike. Nice kiss goodbye, by the way.”
Her eyes flared. “ You didn’t. God, you’re such an asshole!”
My gaze dropped to her lips. “I missed that wicked mouth.”And I can’t wait to fuck it, although I was smart enough to know it wasn’t the right time to mention that.
“You’re insane. And kissing me goodbye in front of a client would have been completely unprofessional—although it’s not surprising you wouldn’t realize that.”
“I think the insane one is your boyfriend, who just drove off and left his woman with a man who clearly expressed an interest in her.
“And, by the way, I wouldn’t give a shit if it was professional or not, I’d be marking my territory.”
Layla’s hands went to her hips. “He trusts me. And what are you? A dog? Marking your territory. Do you piss on fire hydrants, too?”
“He trusts you? That must be why he didn’t see your lie when you told him we’d never met before.”
I took a step closer, right into her personal space. Instead of backing up, she tilted her head to look up at me. I fucking loved that she refused to back down.
“There is no reason for him to know about us. You know why? Because there was never an us.”
“Tell yourself whatever you need to.”
“God, you are so arrogant.”
I stroked her hair. “You changed your hair. I like it wavy like this. It’s sexy. But you’re covering up those beautiful freckles on your nose again.”
She slapped my hand away. “Are you even listening to me?”
“Yes. He trusts you. No us. I’m an arrogant asshole.”
She growled at me. It was fucking adorable.
“Your keys, Miss.”
Neither of us had noticed her car pulling up or the valet dangling the keys while standing next to us.
Grabbing the keys from his hand, she strutted toward her car. The valet ran back to open the door. Layla began to get in and then stopped and spoke over the hood of her car. “Hire another firm, Gray.
“Whatever you think is going to happen between us,isn’t.”
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